Friday, January 29, 2010

Look! Over here! Not over there!

This post brought to us from Holly, my favourite Canadian (see what I did thar?) and the most cheerful person I know, even more than At. 

Let's talk about tanking... and PUG's. Let's talk about tanking and PUG's.

First I'd like to say, I'm not a great tank. I'm a good tank. I know how to do my job, but honestly? Some days I'm just mashing buttons and running around like a headless chicken. I have good gear; not stellar but some great gear.

I know good tanks when I see them... and there have been quite a few. I remember wanting to be Haneen for the longest time.

I recognize bad tanks when I see them... and that's because I've seen good tanks.

I'm a tank. It's all I ever wanted to be and I strive to improve, to get feedback and to accept constructive criticism. I have a mage and a rogue that I fool around with, but I'm a tank at heart. Don't ask Holly to DPS, you'll see a grown woman cuddling her blankee in the corner and whimpering.

That being said, I had the pleasure of experiencing and OMFG. WORST. PUG. EVER. dungeon last night.

Let me start at the beginning. I was late getting home. I log on, say hi to the guildies and they're all busy. This I can handle, I figure I'll herb some and grab someone later for my random heroic, bring on the frost badges, run. Then I get a little bored with my healer husband out of town. I can PUG it, I think, I'm a tank... everyone wants a tank. I get compliments when I PUG, I hear things like "thank heavens, a geared tank". It's good for my ego and it's just a random dungeon. Who hasn't run every dungeon in Northrend at least 20 times before this random dungeon finder thing changed our lives?? Don’t answer that, it was rhetorical.

We pulled The Nexus; a baby dungeon, even on heroic. 20 minutes and I'm outta here, I'm thinking. Even with brand spankin' new 80's, The Nexus should be a cake walk. First couple of pulls and I'm feeling even more confident, pretty good DPS, mage is a bit out of control, but we're handling it. We get through the Hall of Stasis without any casualties. We're heading up The Librarium and just outside the entrance to Grand Magus Telestra. Pull and down the first group at the top of the ramp. No pat (mage slayer with dogs, you know the ones) so we head across the way to the group on the other side. ALWAYS take out the mage ascendant first, that bitch polymorphs. Well I no more than turn my head when the Mage Slayer pats into my druid and my mage. Before I have a chance to finish off the first four (thank heavens for the rogue and warlock in our group) and charge my way over there, the druid and the mage are dead. So we finish off the patrol and wait for people to come back. I want to say here, we didn't wipe...we lost two people.

This is where things get a little weird. The druid, the healer, says... "Can we speed this up; I've got to go in 12 minutes". WTF? I'm not sure how to respond to this. First, who gets in a group when they can't stay? I know that shit happens, mom calls, the cat catches fire and people sometimes have to leave without warning but to only plan to be there for a limited time? Inconsiderate bewb. Second, I can roll with the punches as good as any, but her body is still laying there after 3 minutes and she's (her character was female so we'll go with that) not back in the instance yet. For someone with a time crunch they're sure taking their sweet time getting back in the game. So I say "Let me see if I understand this. You want us to go faster but you're laying there waiting to be rezzed?” This is where it gets fuzzy for me, I'll admit, because it got kind of surreal. She comes back with some comment about "who would rez her (right, she's the only one with the power but why else would she be taking so long?) and she was actually contemplating leaving and did I have any more snide comments to make?". Well ladies and gentleman, let me tell you, that got my back up. She's on a time crunch and just spent 3 of her 12 minutes contemplating leaving and I was the one being unreasonable? So I said, and I quote, "Go to hell, you try and find a geared tank who'll put up with your shit" and I left. As I left I noticed her last comment about how I couldn’t keep anything off her…

Hasty? Maybe, but it's a frackin' PUG and these are not people I care about one iota. I was prepared to put in my 20 minutes, get my badges, say my thanks and run. It's a game and I'm here for a good time, there are other PUG's out there. Moving away from a druid with an attitude seemed like common sense.

Here's where it got insane. She (still a female toon) whispers me on my server (I know she was on Shattered Halls) about how I’m not that geared and not that good a tank. Are you fucking kidding me? I whisper back “Says You” and “Leave me alone” and then I put her on ignore. It’s got to be the healer right? So I start telling officers about what just happened. These people are my friends and they’re going to tell me if I’m off in my own world or should have behaved differently. They’re vindicating my side when I get whispered by another female toon with a similar name to the one I just ignored.

OK. This is just psycho now. She’s going on about how badly I behaved and how pathetic I was. I remember responding with “I’m pathetic? I didn’t just create a new toon on a different server to give a stranger shit”. She effectively ignored this and accused me of being selfish. “Don’t you have to go yet?” I’m thinking her 12 minutes have to be up by now. My GM wants to know her name so that she can straighten her out. I’ve had enough and have put her on ignore again.

She then proceeds to talk to my GM for 30 minutes! No, you can’t make shit this ridiculous up. Alas, back me up here, honey. (It's true! -Alas) Alas is in a rebellious mood and spends the 30 minutes making fun of her. I still can’t get over that. THIRTY (30) MINUTES. Apparently I’m leading Alas around by the nose making her believe I’m a good tank. It’s true. I’ll say it here, please sit down ‘cause I want you all to know that I just faked beating the bosses in Ulduar and TOC and that I’m a phony. You all have carried me for the past 3 years.

I forgot to mention. The reason she took 3 minutes to get back in Nexus? She got lost. She couldn’t find the entrance.

Also, if I was such a good tank why was I running randoms and not running with my awesome guildies? Turns out there’s only room for one tank in FoS. If she’s so great, why was she running randoms? Huh? Nub?

Anyway. There’s a reason its midnight and I’m listening to Sugarland’s “It happens” over and over. I’ve got to write this down before I forget. I’ve got to get this out!

Tanking is a thankless job but I love it. If someone dies, it’s my fault. If someone pulls agro, I must not have been doing my job. My hunter husband knows I’ll let him die if he pulls agro (we give a whole new meaning to “wife agro” in my house). If the group succeeds it’s all thanks to the uber DPS. But WOW, there is nothing quite like the rush of being the first one to run into a fight with the rest of the guild behind you. Better than any drug, or sex, or party or organized cupboard I can tell you. If I die, but we get the boss down, I know I did my job. If I don’t die, it’s even better.

Tanking a PUG though? It’s work. Hard work. I want a pug puppy but I don’t know if I can do it. Not with people like that druid healer out there.

Thanks for letting me rant. I’m Hollybrynn and I just want a hug.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Leadership from three angles

I know all of this has been covered elsewhere, likely by people far more clever than me. But recent events have made me stop and compile everything I know about leadership and from all the angles in which I have experienced leadership. I don't expect this to be groundbreaking by any means, but I wanted to organize my thoughts.

Leadership from the bottom
In my real life job, I unfortunately have been working in non-leadership roles for the past several years. So I know what it is like to feel like the under-appreciated, unknown, faceless and nameless cog in the business machine. From down here, it is certainly tempting to believe that everyone who is in a supervisory role has perks that I will never get.

In the position I held before this one, I was expected to keep the phone/desk covered at all times, along with another secretary in the department. This meant having to coordinate lunches with her and being as punctual as I could be. If either of us made it to work a little late, that was a problem. Leaving early was nearly out of the question. And God forbid we ever wanted the same day off or both happened to get sick at the same time! To see every other person in the department strolling in whenever they felt like it, taking long lunches, going to the gym mid-day, being able to go to the bathroom without having to clear it with someone else first (no wonder I hated that fucking job), yeah, they had perks that came from their position.

However, I made a lateral transfer to another department where the requirements are different, and suddenly the game has changed. I take long lunches. I can come in a little late and work over to make up for it. I don't have anyone making me dress up 5 days a week. I also get stuck with all the grunt work no one else wants to do and I see my supervisor abusing the living hell out of his "Exempt" status (no one has as much sick time as he takes). There still seem to be perks I will never have.

I have to assume that there are parts of these leadership positions that are less desirable. Perhaps dealing with the budget or attempting to steer an agenda through the turbulent waters of campus politics is more onerous than I imagine.

Still, it's difficult to respect most middle management here - the "officers" of the business world. There are some who clearly watch out for their teams, but there are just as clearly some who play favorites or seek only their own interests. Some seem to be completely checked out as far as interest in their jobs. Sometimes the person watching out for their team might also be the same person who then plays favorites among them.

So what are the bright spots for a lowly grunt? What are the positives I have seen from management here and how might I be able to take that and translate it into watching out for my guildies? What should I avoid because it'll make me look like a jerk? Here are things I would like to tell my boss (only without the WoW references, obviously).

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Sentiments that amuse me

Because otherwise we'd be looking at a whole lot of my scratching my head and WTF-ing all over the place and I just don't think Yngwe needs another feeding quite yet.

In other words, here are some pics that make me lol:

 Unless it's the weekend....

Visitors suck!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Fifty "fun" facts

  1. The first character I ever rolled was a druid
  2. It took me five or six tries to finally stick with a warrior
  3. I once thought my warlock would be my main
  4. I've deleted a level 50 priest
  5. And a level 30-something rogue
  6. I have tried gender-bending many times but there's always something about the movement of a man toon that irritates me to where I can't keep it
  7. I think that people who won't play a certain class or race because "it's too evil" are stupidlame
  8. I also think that no one is going to get addicted to something in real life just because they played a belf who was addicted to magic
  9. Speaking of addiction, the idea that WoW is harmfully addictive is a crock. It's fun and some people just have no self control 
  10. My baby huntard is still BM because I sort of like lol ez mode
  11. I also deleted a 20-something mage back before they super accelerated 1-70 xp gain
  12. I find the death knight class to be boring as hell but I'll get one leveled anyway
  13. People who act like their time is more important than that of anyone else they are in party/raid with make me stabby
  14. PvP is unhealthy for my desk/keyboard/mouse and At's ears, so I try not to deal with that aspect of the game
  15. If someone leaves my guild on bad terms I will carry a pretty unreasonable actual hatred of them to the point where I have cheered to hear that someone's real life fell apart
  16. And yeah, I know it's just a game
  17. But that doesn't mean that people can't be real douches in a fake environment
  18. I once had a GM tell me that my opinion as an officer wasn't worth his listening to it
  19. That may have been the reason I cheered when I heard his real life fell apart. Maybe
  20. I find that there are some struggles to being female and in a leadership position
  21. But I will never ever use that as an excuse when I make a bad decision or am otherwise stupid
  22.  I don't think being female gets me any perks in WoW
  23. Unless you count being told that being a bossy raid leader is hott
  24. I have gotten a couple pervs before - that was interesting
  25. Even though we sometimes struggle with content for a while I do think Blizz is making the game as a whole too easy
  26. At scoffs at me whenever I start in on how no one should get ponies at 20 or flying at 60
  27. I used to think I would never level fishing or cooking on any character
  28. My main is max exalted with all WotLK factions except Ashen Verdict
  29. Lately I change Alas' hair every few weeks because I would do it in real life if I could
  30. I think Renaissance faires are an awesome excuse for dressing up
  31. Alas was not supposed to be my main because of her name
  32. I have a different name I use everywhere else online but that name ended up attached to a nelf huntard
  33. That huntard got deleted at 44 to make way for my DK with the same name
  34. I've met several of my guildies irl even if it did mean driving to the deep South (imo) to do so
  35. Alastriona is the Gaelic form of my middle name
  36. And I cringe every time someone pronounces it "Alas-tree-OH-nuh"
  37. The first time I healed a raid it was in Kara and I didn't have any helpful addons, such as grid or healbot
  38. Of course, that was the PUG raid that wiped on chess, trufax
  39. I call At "At" in real life but I almost never call him by his real name
  40. I'm ridiculously addicted to FarmVille, even though I see how brainless it is
  41. Of course, I also deal with faculty and buying random crap for a living (me, every other day: "How the hell do I buy printer memory? Printers have memory?") so I try to avoid that as much as possible
  42. Unless I plan on writing either the fanfic or the novel, then I'm all worky worky worky
  43. I lol at people with naming conventions
  44. I am super cheap, to the point where even though I have over 30k across my toons, I still won't buy anything off the AH unless I absolutely have to
  45. The cheapness also means that many of my characters don't have epic flying 
  46. I will not play undead, trolls or orcs because they're ugly
  47. I will not play gnomes or dwarves because they're short
  48. I would totally do any draenai  - male or female
  49. I have some moderate OCD tendencies 
  50. I needed this list to have a random number and an alliterative title   

Monday, January 25, 2010

This again?

Once again, it seems like a good thing that I don't have anyone reading this post aside from fellow-guildies and the very occasional person who is bored enough to subject themselves to this rambling. Because there I went and randomly fell off the bloggy world for a while.

It wasn't that I had nothing to write about. Quite the opposite. I had too much going on and for a lot of it, the things that seemed the most pressing, I knew I needed to take those items up with the officers before I wrote about it here.

Which I did last night and I'm really glad it took so long to get most of us on at the same time because I was able to just say what I wanted to say without (I think) being all crazysauce again, like that one time I let game stress build up and then shot at all the leadership with both barrels and a whole lot of profanity. And yelling. And abuse of caps lock.

And in the aftermath of having divested myself of specific nights of having to be on, be the raid leader, answer all the stupid questions and blah blah BLAH, I really have to laugh at myself and shake my head and acknowledge that I bring this all on myself.

What I like to do, is be in charge. Of everything! All the time! Because clearly, I am the person who cares the most and knows how to do things best! But then it gets to be too much for me to handle. And the game becomes a chore and I find myself making rude remarks about everyone no matter how much I like them or how little I actually know them. And then I go apeshit on the officers like it's their fault that I feel the need to be in control.

(Well, I only did that once but it was BAD and I was a jerk and I'm still sorry!)

So last night I said, "Guys, I am feeling really overwhelmed again with handling this all the time. It's making the game not fun for me and that's a bad thing."

One officer said, "Haven't we had this conversation before?"

Well, yes. Yes we had. But the problem was that I just said "I need help!" and the officers said, "We can help! Let us know what to do!" And I said here are some things. Then... eventually... because we never said this is always your responsibility all the time, I allowed them to help in general but no one ever really took anything on and I eventually was doing it all, all over again.

Last night, two officers took on half the raiding schedule between them. I have the other half still. I really think it will take some of the pressure off.

But, I have control issues.

So on the inside, I'm wondering if I can trust these other officers to do it "right." I wonder if they will have the follow-through. I wonder why I wanted to give up any precious, precious control.

I am a sick woman.

But I'm also the official "has all teh admin power" GM for at least the rest of this last semester of At's. So I guess that makes me a sick woman with power.

It'll be a lot of work to let go of my psycho enough to let others do their jobs. I hope it goes well.

And I really do think my fellow officers are awesome, so please ignore the crazy woman huddled in the corner biting her nails and tearing out her hair.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Half assed Tuesday

I may have mentioned before that I am lame? Here's an example. Every damn time we go to Pit of Saron, I always, always think Tyrannus is talking to me. Every time. Despite the fact that my name is not simply "Alas." I have become too accustomed to being called that by my guild mates and even myself. So, if ever someone in game says, "Alas," and means "unfortunately," I still think it's all about me.

Does this mean I am unfortunate? Could be, could be.

In other news, we finally headed back to Ulduar after spending several weeks away from it working on ToC (with great success) and ICC (with less success). And, hey, what do you know? We plowed right through Thorim and Freya. I missed a shot of Freya, but here's me flexing in Thorim's crotchal region:


Wow, dude's got this sort of like, aura around him, you know?

At (as his shaman) made me laugh because he is also lame:

And lastly, I thought that I saw a famous bloggery type person hanging out in Shattrath. On second thought, it might just be a fan as I am quite certain no one would roll a DK on another server for any reason whatsoever.

 <--Very likely not Amber of Bubble Liking fame.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Will your pug fail hardcore?

Has anyone else noticed that it's relatively easy to tell within about 5 seconds of getting in party whether or not your PUG group is going to fail hardcore? And that you could do so without the help of any add-on or knowledge of GS?

It's true, I tell you. True!

Here's how:

1. Peruse the names of the people you are grouped with.
2. That's it. You're done!

If the tank is named something like "Greattank" or "Iamawesome" - congrats, that guy won't hold aggro worth a damn.

If the healer is named something like "Retpally" or "Azzah" - congrats, they'll have no idea what the hell they're doing.

If two out of three dps are DK's, you don't even need to read for names like "Darkarthas" or "Vaderknight" to know that they'll just be facerolling the keyboard.

If you end up with my failtank (a pally named Alleluia), run towards the nearest exit as fast as your legs will carry you. I'll understand if your cat is on fire and you have to go. It happens a lot, apparently.


wow, that was pointless.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Extra special guest post edition

As the Raid Turns, So do the DPS of our Lives

Hi My name is Jinx Deluna, luckily I know Alas in real life and spend many moments in front of her desk going over whatever raid we've been in or whatever is on my mind. She usually has a kind word to say, gives the pep talk and life is good for me. Well it has been Christmas break, days off sick, and I haven't gotten my Alas time in a few weeks. Then the cookie began to crumble for me and I was getting close to hanging up my raiding keyboard for a simple questing life somewhere else. I had the opportunity to talk to her today and well my mind has been put at ease, to a degree and here's what was going down.

So several nights ago, we are hitting new areas of Ulduar for our guild and I find myself eating pavement as 9 other people killed the boss with joy in their voices and a dead druid on the ground. Three times this happened, once ok, twice ugh, the third time, I see a pattern here. In order for the raid to kill the boss, Jinx must kiss the ground and watch as her buddies take down that boss that we've been struggling over. Dude, I'll take one for the team but my mind says, “You're not good enough, your dps sucks anyway and if someone else had died you couldn't use your battle res cuz your dead on the ground. What good are you?” Then that other quiet but reasonable voice says, Blame it on the healers! And how many times has Asmod died two nights before? And how many times did Noxy have his own macro by the healers because he died all the time? Ok maybe it's not so bad…maybe…

Then last night OMG everything hit like a brick. First Noxy is sick and I'm at his house trying to take care of a runny nose, fever running, sick boyfriend and his only wish, “Please go to the raid and have fun, it's ok, really.” I roll my eyes fine, I'll go.

I show up early as usual, do a few dailies, and notice from the FU that I'm not in a channel that Alas has, I join it through the FU and type: So, where are we headed tonight? It didn't show up. I typed it a second time and again, it didn't appear. Fine, I checked my settings and it doesn't show up that I'm a part of this channel WTF? Check it off and ask a third time, So, where are we going night? What I didn't realize was that Alas did see it post and answered and just because my chat window didn't show it, hers was. No one tried whispers or anything to clarify, so what's up with her snarky remark that I did see? “What about my post Jinxy” or something to that effect. What post? Oh the Kiss My Alas page, went back found the post, it reads something to the effect of things that piss me off: “when someone asks hours before raid where were going.” It wasn't hours, it was 30 minutes. I want to feel useful, like I'm contributing something, so, now I'm pissed and trying to figure out what I've done wrong to get a snarky remark.

(Note from Alas: I feel bad about about that, but it's also sort of funny in a comedy of errors sort of way) 

Then from there it went downhill. Tanks pulled agro without a raid leader designating where ranged DPS is supposed to watch, a pally ran out of mana asking for innervate - what if I needed it, get your own damn mana, I don't care if you are the tank and are you using Divine Plea, oh wait, I'm almost full, fine, have the damn thing. (Remember, I'm already pissed and normally this doesn't bother me in the least). Then add almost wiping on a trash pull because people weren't gathered on the stairs and the biggest thing Star or X? Which one dies first? I don't want to ask on each pull which mob has to die first, why can't we use skull and X…EVERYONE else in the game does. So I watch the health bars and see our DPS is split. WTF can we have a little bit of freaking consistency here, is that too much to ask? Please?

(Note from Alas: Bad raid leader is bad. Since it was only the weekly [XT-002], I was being lax. Thought that surely people had a handle on what to kill, when. But Jinx is right. There is not a lot of consistency since the star mark is only for what a certain person is tanking and doesn't signal anything other than that. Sometimes we need to take down the starred mob first, sometimes it's the X. We're going to have to switch back to skull, X or simply say that star = skull so it has to go down first, I don't give a damn who is tanking the mob.) 

So I vent this out at Alas's desk today with most of the day to cool off and I am actually finding the humor in it, I also found some truth. We need the consistency in raids, people need to know where they are supposed to stand or what is expected. I don't need the mechanics of the fight but tell me which adds to watch for, folks need to make sure the healers have mana, and for goodness sakes what is a damn ready check for? *smile* OH I get it, just for shits and grins? LOL…one last thing: WHO DIES FIRST?

We have an awesome team of folks that raid. I do enjoy the game and raiding. I fuss over my DPS like it is an only child and feel that everyone is watching Jinx and asking, Why does she get to come to raids, her DPS is the shit. In reality It's not horrible since I'm a hybrid but everyone else pulls 3500 to 6000 and I'm pulling 2700 to 4000. I feel so inadequate sometimes.  I leaned over Alas's desk and said, “But my dick isn't big enough”. She leans in and says, “But it's a hybrid dick…it is ok.”

Fine, I'll take care of the sick boyfriend until he's recovered, then I'll belly back up to the raiding bar again and take my hybrid dick and kill what I can kill and not fret over the other stuff. …Well, I'll still fret because it is my OCD but hopefully I will not let the mind chatter muddy the waters.


Note from Alas: And here we are, letting this site be a place to rant. For the record, other guildies who come here, you all can guest post any time. It makes me lol and helps me learn what's important to you and why.  

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

I like to worry in advance

Because that's also how I roll.

There was some discussion in the officer's channel last night about people asking about raiding, saying they wanted to. Which, you know, great. But also, I feel as though we're looking down the barrel of a gun that's about to go off.

Between various websites and discussions, I've counted up several raiders potentially coming back soon. Several of them are excellent and I look forward to getting a chance to raid with them again. The others, meh, they've been at the center of some drama (of the mild, loot/raid spot variety) more than once. Or they've been really lazy about small requirements, like signing up at the guild forums and reading and agreeing to the raid rules. Also, they're mostly dps. DPS. We don't need more dps.

At the same time, Azzah is coming back. Which, yes, I told him to because I wanted some totems to make sweet, sweet love to, and he's an excellent healer. But along with him comes another dps. A warlock. It used to be that I would murder for ranged dps since we had about 3 billion DKs all wanting to raid like thisismynewmainlol! Now I have one rogue. And 3 billion ranged with more wanting to come back. And people running heroics to gear up and thinking gear = all I need and since they just pug the hell out of things I have never once run with them and I don't know that they have actual skill which is pretty damned important to me.

All of which is to say, yeah, woo, we have like 5-7 people back or threatening to start raiding or come back to the game and they're all going to want to get in on ICC raids and I can't blame them for that. But I don't see giving up my spot or asking anyone else to do the same when we have been the ones working at this for months and months and there every week learning the fight and gearing up before it was all badge purchasable.

I guess I wish Blizz would stop making gear so easy to get because gear doesn't say anything any more about skill. And no, I don't think I'm some elite awesome player. But I know my class and I pull down decent numbers and I have been consistent.

And I don't want to, in the coming weeks, have this perfect, delicate balance that we've finally achieved overthrown by a bunch of fair-weather raiders coming along, buying the gear and expecting to be able to go at the expense of someone who deserves it more. We are not, in all likelihood, going to end up with enough people to man even two full 10-man raiding teams, let alone one 25-man. So there is the very real possibility that within a month, I'm going to be sitting 5-6 people out every night and all I can tell them is:

Team balance first, the appropriate number of tanks, heals and dps and past that it's first come, first serve.

Hopefully I'm worried about nothing, but I don't like the way this is looming on the horizon.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

No rants today

Not from this quarter anyway. Working on Emergent. Two versions of the first part of chapter one over there.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Monday magery (in which I try to actually be helpful)

Last week, I saw a cry for help in Twitter for good mage resources. Since I love mages, my immediate thought was: Ooh, I could help! But as it turns out, the only things I've really written about mages were either senseless lists encouraging other people to be jerks or angst at Blizz for consistently giving us crappy changes in the patches and trivializing us to the point of being good for int, focus magic and food.

Anyhow, Miss Bubbles found something else and mentioned it and I Googled it to see what she had discovered. As I started reading through the guide, my instant response was no no no nonononononononono!

Wherefore doth every mage advice giver say "Level frost!"? That advice is shit, so I figured it was up to me to provide an alternate viewpoint in the sea of frost-loving tards to say, bravely and with great conviction, don't go frost. Go fire. Or arcane. But don't go frost.

And here's why - frost is lame. The only thing it is good for is survivability in PvP or PvP-esque encounters (looking at you faction champs!). Aside from that, it is painful and lame and I will mock you should I ever PUG an instance with you. Hard core and behind your back. Because that's how I roll.

So here, from 10-80, is the way I would spend those precious talent points and why.

Levels 1-9

Ha! You don't get talents! You do get the basics of your toolbox though.  

Spells to watch for: You get all the bare basics here. Food, water, int, fireballs and frostbolts. You'll also get your first armor, Frost Armor, and sorry, you're stuck with it for a while. Polymorph also comes into play and both can be life savers so make sure they're very available.

Level 10-20

This is going to sound a little 'backards,' but I strongly advise putting the first 11 points into the frost tree. This is because Blizz is making an obvious attempt to steer people into the frost tree and gives mostly frost-based spells for the first several levels. Like many other classes, mages aren't actually any fun until about level 20 or so. Thank God they've tweaked the mana regen issues too, because the water they let you make is crap. Anyhow, you can't go wrong with Precision and Icy Veins is an absolute must. So the first three points should go into Ice Floes to reduce that CD for when you get Icy Veins. As soon as you do, abandon the frost tree with all haste. Unless you want to go frostfire at end game, there's never any good reason to put another point in there. Also as soon as you get Icy Veins, macro that sucker to whatever spell it is you choose to spam.  

Spells to watch for: You get a few AoE abilities through here - Flamestrike and Arcane Explosion. Slow Fall is nice, especially when you glyph for it. Blink is your friend in sticky situations, use it with Frost Nova for a quick escape before following up with a Blizzard AoE. Evocation can cut down on drink time so use it whenever you can between pulls.

Level 21-30 Fire

I switched between arcane and fire while leveling Alas, and loved each one fairly equally. In this guide, I will focus on fire only since I do tend to recommend to guild-mates that they go fire just because it's so damn much fun. There's a lot of nice stuff to be had, even at the bottom of the tree (or top depending on how you like to look at it. I call it the bottom because it's the first stuff you get...). In fact, there is so much nice stuff that I often have problems advising people on what to pick up first. I try to lean more towards what I feel would be useful for leveling, rather than what you'll absolutely want to have for the raiding scene. Since the lower levels are pretty spammy with with the same spell over and over, I am recommending Improved Fireball, followed by Ignite for the DoT effect.

Spells to watch for: You get Scorch, Counterspell and Ice Block here. Use Scorch with wild abandon in your rotation and counterspell is great for bringing casters into melee range when running with a tank. Ice Block is another life saver if you overpull and there's someone around to help you out. If you're alone, you're just postponing squishy, squishy death.  Mana gems also start here and they are delightful to use during pulls so you don't have to stop mid-fight for Evocation.  

Level 31-40 Fire

This is about the level range you get to start picking up some more interesting stuff. Although I have filled out a few more things in the second tier, you'll want to go ahead and pick up Pyroblast first. This is a terrific (long cast) spell to start a fight with, especially when it crits. World of Flames will improve that crit chance and then Flame Throwing will increase the distance the mob has to run to reach you. Improved Scorch is handy for having a nice quick spell to toss on a mob that will add an extra DoT. About this point, you should be able to effectively kill most single targets before they reach you.

Spells to watch for: You get Mage Armor! Yay! Start using it immediately. That's it, unless you think portals are an exciting spell to watch for.

Level 41-50 Fire

If you're having any sort of mana problems, you'll want to drop your next few points immediately into Master of Elements to finish filling that out. Otherwise, I would start with Critical Mass and Blast Wave before going back and filling MoE in. You then have several options, all of them good, for where to drop the last four. I would pick up Improved Fire Blast from the bottom of the tree and then grab a few points in Incineration.

Spells to watch for: You get jack diddly through here. No really. More upranks of stuff you have but nothing new to speak of.

Level 51-60 Fire

As soon as you hit level 51, grab Combustion and then add that sucker to your macro with Icy Veins. Then fill out Pyromaniac before darting back up to fill out Incineration and then grab all 5 points in Fire Power. In many ways, this is where the points get harder to place because there is so much lovely stuff and so few points to actually spend.

Spells to watch for: You get jack diddly through here. Except that Arcane Brilliance is nice for having to mass buff parties/raids.

Level 61-70 Fire

There are lots of leveling goodies to pick up here. Start with filling up Hot Streak because there is nothing more wonderful than an instant cast Pyroblast after a pair of crits. Dragons Breath, Firestarter and Empowered Fire are all well worth the points, particularly if you are running a lot of dungeons with mass AoE pulls. Dragon's Breath is a point I have a love/hate relationship with, because I strongly feel that mobs shouldn't be close enough to have to use that. However, I have been known to pretend to be a melee mage so I could combine that with Firestarter and instant Flamestrike goodness. If you are doing a lot of AoE/close-to-the-mobs-damage, it is probably worth it to glyph to get rid of the knockback on on Blast Wave to keep everything in your flamestrikes. You'll also want to backtrack again to pick up a point in Molten Shields. Molten Armor becomes available at very long last at level 62 and you will want to rock that like there's no tomorrow as soon as you get it.

Spells to watch for: Molten Armor! Invisibility! Tables of food! Spellsteal can also be tons of fun - you'll soon learn which mobs have nice things to take for your own.

Level 71-80 Fire (leveling)

There are two paths to take at this point. One is to keep the fun leveling talents that you'll kiss goodbye come raiding because again, all of this has been a leveling spec and won't net you much but anger from tanks come raid time (I myself nearly got killed back in TK: The Eye for using Blast Wave with the knockback because an irate tank thought he needed to have mobs close to hit them and get aggro). Anyhow, round out the rest of the tree by getting Burnout, Living Bomb (more AoE fun and happiness) and that last point in Molten Shields. After that, you have three points left. I've seen many mages put them into Arcane Focus for the +hit. But you might also consider dropping them in Playing with Fire.

Spells to watch for: You get to ditch making food and water separately through here, as well as pick up frostfire bolt at long last (that would be the time to switch to the raid spec, btw). At 80 you get Larry, Curly and Moe, your very own three stooges, who are pretty stupid but are a nice way to drop threat when some big ugly comes after you.

Level 71-80 (prep for raiding)

If you're looking to raid, you'll want to respec right around 75, although it could certainly be held off longer. However, you will likely want to give yourself a few levels to adjust to the different play style, because it is different. If you want the cookie-cutter spec, go hit up or something. If you want the Alas frostfire raiding spec, click the link above. Mine is basically the cookie cutter version with a tweak that I personally refuse to live without; namely, ditching Molten Fury in order to keep the two points in Molten Shields. I think I understand the mindset behind putting points into something that boosts damage against targets with less than 35% health given the many, many bosses that enrage or get really difficult towards the end of their life spans. However, increasing overall crit all the time makes more sense to me for a build that relies so heavily upon crit.

This is all turning out to be much longer than I anticipated, so I'll add something else later about glyphs, stats and rotations in another post. In the meantime, enjoy and stay away from frost.

Friday, January 8, 2010

The fine line of douchebaggery: A How To

We had someone quit the guild the other day, taking his main to go heal for a family's members guild. "No hard feelings," he said.

And I don't have hard feelings, per se. But I do find myself rather frustrated with him because this is something like the third or fourth time he's quit. And I find myself frustrated with us as guild leadership because we're the ones who kept allowing him to come back. Granted, the first few times he cycled out the door, it was during times of high stress and drama. I often want to quit the guild during those times too, so I can understand it to a point. Still, he's burned his last bridge with us and here's why:

I hate giving loot to people who prove to me over and over again that all they're going to do is walk away later.

At this point, I wouldn't invite him to a raid if we were a dps short and it was a choice between his skills and a new 80 who thinks that it's a great idea to be a fire specced mage and only cast frost spells (saw that in a pug, trufax).

But rather than focusing on our own stupid for allowing him to use us over and over again, I present a short list of easy ways to ensure a guild will never want you back, not ever, but still have to say, "It's not that he was a douche, really, but..."

1. Never shut up. Ever

The trick to this one, of course, is to make sure that you keep everything light and friendly and clean. That way no one can actually complain that you're rude or crass, but your constant stream of chatter will make people want to put you on ignore at the very least. To carry this beyond a simple stream of chatter, consider carrying your chat over to vent, particularly when people are trying to raid or make it visually unappealing if you're working only with text, like so:

hey gais!
so i waz wondrin
hav u evr liek
thot about bein liek
relly ur caracter

End result: When you move on, people will say "It's not that he was a douche, really, but he wouldn't ever shut up." 

2. Be just a little dim-witted 

I don't know about anyone else, but I personally despise that one person who asks the same questions over and over. Not because they're not getting a response or a real answer, but because they can't remember from one week to another what exactly they have to look out for on a certain encounter or just how to get from IF to SW without bugging a mage about it (yeah, that tram is so difficult to remember and even harder to find since you have push through a magic barrier to find Platform 9 and 3/4).

End result: When you move on, people will say "It's not that he was a douche, really, but he was just so stupid."

3. Offer unsolicited critiques on your guild-mates' builds, rotations, glyphs and enchants  

After all, your mage is a level one bank toon, surely you know more about to play that class then the level 80 who has been playing it for years, because you're fairly certain that they're not really literate and couldn't possibly be smart enough to look at sites like Elitist Jerks on their own initiative. Even if they say they have, chances are they were overwhelmed by the math and big words and still don't really know what's going on. You've heard them button mashing often enough over vent to have a pretty good notion that all they do is slam their face against the keyboard. Give everyone your ideas on how they might improve and then talk loftily about fictitious alts of yours (on other servers and they're maxed out on everything so you're bored with them, lol ) and how much better DPS you're able to pull using your ideas.  

Caution: You have to make sure your tone comes across as friendly and helpful. Any hint of condescension will result in people thinking you're a douche.  

End result: When you move on, people will say "It's not that he was a douche, really, but he was such a know-it-all."

4. Be that guy above and still constantly be the first to die in raids because you're too fucking stupid to get outta the fire!

'Nuff said.

End result: When you move on, people will say "It's not that he was a douche, really, but he thought he knew everything and was such a noob he couldn't stay alive in raids for more than a minute."

5. Give off the faint impression that you believe the rest of the guild is there to serve you

This one is perhaps the most tricky of all to master. As with the rest of these, the key is tone, but equally important is frequency. If you're constantly spamming for help, hints, run-throughs or invitations to parties, your guild will clue in pretty quickly. There are a few ways to handle this. One is to just never say anything much, but whenever you do type in guild chat make it a request. Don't be rude but don't be too gracious either. You can get away with more frequent requests if you make sure to watch who is online and who is off and try to catch different segments of guild at different times.

The other way to finesse this is to offer help about once for every five to ten times you get a run through. Honestly, not many people will keep a running tally or anything, so just as long as you appear to be helpful they won't notice that you're really just sponging off the guild and have been for months. Times to offer help are right around when you know people are going to be logging off for the night or just before most of the guild is heading into a raid. Sure you might occasionally get burned by employing this method and end up having to actually give someone's alt a run through SM, but you can also manufacture emergencies if this happens and get out of it early.

End result: When you move on, people will say "It's not that he was a douche, really, but he was just so needy."

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Weekly raid and me

I love me some weekly raid, generally speaking. So far, everything that has come up has been excessively easy to get to and to pwn.

Then yesterday, the thing I had dreaded more than anything else happened.

The weekly raid was Malygos. Eee. Oh. Eee. Our nemesis.

I've mentioned before that it should be an easy fight but that people tend to want to give Malygos hugs while they're on their dragon mounts or not give the tank time to grab aggro on the mobs at the start of phase two or assume that it's everyone else's responsibility to kill those nasty sparks o' doom.

So when I heard from Noxy that the weekly raid was Maly, I started mentally drinking then and there. Had I been not at work, I might have started actually drinking.

Raid time rolled around and I sent out invites and we got everyone summoned out to Colderra. Then I kicked everyone out of the raid, yelled "psyche!" over vent and gquit.

Okay, not really. I did tell everyone to split into two teams though, and that we were going to practice our dragon skills while doing the daily quest Aces High! The healers practiced their healing and the dps practiced their button mashing and every now and again I would bark out "move!" and people would practice strafing to the right. It was delightful, sort of like being in Kindergarten and practicing drawing circles when you know you and all the people with you should be at least at a college equivalent level.

Once both teams had completed the daily we reformed into a raid group and headed in.

The first phase went well enough. Although we didn't manage to actually stack any sparks and in fact killed one before it even reached the platform so that it fell uselessly into the abyss, at least we managed to kill them rather than let them reach Maly. The second phase also went well enough. The two hunter's pets decided to kill the mob that the tank wasn't working on but that was sorted out and no actual raiders were harmed in the process. We also saw our melee dps get up on the discs first, rather than some random healer.

We hit the third phase with just under 4 minutes before enrage and...

...everything worked like a dream. The healers healed and absolutely no one crashed and burned. When I told people to group back up, they did. When I told them to move, there was not a 5 second delay before they did. We one shot Maly with time to spare. Some people even managed to obtain the heart thinger they needed for the quest from the key from when they got that a year or so ago killing Saph. Other people finally obtained their "Champion of the Frozen Wastes" title.

Then we went and kicked Ony's ass and it was very good.

It gives me hope that we'll maybe someday manage to find the time to go finish out the back half of Ulduar. I know we're all capable raiders. The trick is getting everyone to pay attention and understand what exactly they should be doing and when.